Food waste. It’s a topic that makes us feel uncomfortable because deep down we all know that we are guilty of it. Not only does food waste cost you, it also costs our farmers and our environment. In fact each year the average Australian household wastes over $1000 each on food, filling up almost half our bins. ¹ And globally, we waste 4 million tonnes of food each year, which equates to 8 billion dollars. If we knew that this wasted money was enough to cover a month’s worth of groceries or 6 months of our electricity bills, then why do we still waste it?
At times we might cook too much food and be unaware on how to store leftovers safely or use them up efficiently. Alternatively we don’t check the cupboard or fridge before going shopping, fail to stick to shopping lists or let hunger pains lead us to purchase more than we need at the checkout. More so, busy schedules lead to buying takeaway meals at the last minute rather than cooking food that is available at home or we mistakenly throw out food before the use-by date leading to increased landfill.²
When food rots in landfill, it gives off a greenhouse gas called Methane which is 25 times more potent than the carbon pollution that comes out of your car exhaust.² Therefore if we were to make a conscious effort to stop food waste, the benefit to the planet would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.
So who are the main culprits? Unfortunately it is us, the young consumers. Which means it’s up to us to start owning our actions, increase our mindfulness around how we buy and use food and make a conscious decision to make a positive impact on our planet through a few simple steps.
Waste Not – Your Action Plan ³
At the Shops
Plan meals, check your cupboards, use grocery lists and don’t shop while you’re hungry! (This can help avoid those impulse buys!). Buy items only when you have a plan for using them and wait until perishables are all used up before buying more.
Buy exactly what you need.
If a recipe calls for two potatoes, don’t buy a whole bag. Instead buy loose produce so you can purchase the exact number you’ll use. Extra points if you bring your own reusable shopping bad to avoid using plastic bags and further contributing to landfill.
Buy funny-looking produce.
Many fruits and vegetables are thrown away because their size, shape or colour don’t quite match what we think these items “should” look like. However these goods are still perfectly good to eat. So grab that knobby potato, bent carrot or dwarf tomato. Once peeled and chopped it will still provide the same flavor and nutrition for a wholesome meal.
Look at the marked down section.
If you know that you can use certain fruit, vegetables or meat that night for dinner, check out the marked down section of the supermarket. Not only will it save your back pocket, but you will be using up food that might otherwise be tossed. Tip: Old fruit and vegetables are perfect for soups, stews and baking! So grab some overripe bananas for that perfect banana bread J
It stands for First In, First Out. When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of the fridge/freezer/pantry and put new products in the back. This way you’re more likely to use up the older things before it expires.
Monitor what you throw away.
Choose one week in which you write down everything that you throw out on a regular basis. See what changes can be made to your purchases or habits to avoid this wastage.
Instead of cooking a new meal, look around in the cupboards and fridge for leftovers and other food that might otherwise get overlooked. Make a meal out of it. Scramble it with some eggs, bake it in a quiche, use it as pie filling, make a soup out of it.
Take it to work the next day or freeze them and save them for later when you’re in a rush and need something nutritious quickly.
Invest in quality storage.
Purchase some quality air-tight containers to store your chips/cereal/crackers/rice/pasta/flour to help keep them for longer.
Use soft fruit for smoothies or jams, black bananas for cakes, wilting vegetables for soups, stir-frys or juices.
Donate what you won’t use.
If you have canned goods that you know you won’t use then donate it to a food kitchen before it expires so that it can be consumed by someone who needs it.
Rather than tossing food scraps like skins and wilting vegetables, start a compost pile in the backyard and convert food waste into a useful resource.
If we all make some small changes together we will be able to waste less food, save our back pockets and make a positive contribution to our community.
After some more information?
These websites contain some amazing tips, strategies, educational tools, local events and recipes to equip you on your quest to reduce food waste.
References (check these out for more information)
1. Youth Food Movement. 2016. Spoonled. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/spoonled/. [Accessed 31 March 16].
2. Foodwise. 2016. Food Waste Fast Facts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/. [Accessed 31 March 16].
3. Love Food Hate Waste. 2016. Hints and Tips. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/hints-and-tips. [Accessed 31 March 16].